cover image The Chief Witness: Escape from China’s Modern-Day Concentration Camps

The Chief Witness: Escape from China’s Modern-Day Concentration Camps

Sayragul Sauytbay and Alexandra Cavelius, trans. from the German by Caroline Waight. Scribe US, $20 (320p) ISBN 978-1-950354-52-8

Sauytbay, a member of the Muslim Kazakh ethnic minority in China’s Xinjiang province, details her oppression by Chinese authorities in this harrowing account. In 2016, the Chinese Communist Party began a crackdown on the region’s Muslim ethnic groups, including Uighurs and Kazakhs. Sauytbay chronicles the loss of homes, herding grounds, and holy places, as well as constant surveillance, forced relocation, and internment in “reeducation” camps. After her husband and two children fled to Kazakhstan, Sauytbay, a civil servant who ran five local kindergartens before the crackdown, was ordered to report to one of the camps and teach Chinese language and culture to the inmates. She describes how Muslim detainees were force-fed pork, beaten for speaking their native languages, and subjected to medical experiments, and alleges that some were even “disappeared” for organ harvesting. Suddenly released after months in the camp, she fled to Kazakhstan, where she reunited with her family before she was arrested by the secret police in that country and put on trial for entering the country illegally. Her testimony about the camps resulted in an outpouring of international pressure on Kazakhstan and her family’s eventual relocation to Sweden. Full of disturbing evidence and visceral outrage at the failures of Western governments and corporations to hold China to account, this is a searing portrait of a still-unfolding tragedy. (June)